Nicks on Ravens' radar

OWINGS MILLS — At the NFL scouting combine, Hakeem Nicks compared himself favorably to Arizona Cardinals Pro Bowl wide receiver Anquan Boldin. "My game is similar to Anquan Boldin, in my opinion," Nicks said during a February press conference. "With how physical he is, the run after the catch, and how physical he is off the line of scrimmage."

Ironically, the Baltimore Ravens are involved in prospective trade discussions regarding Boldin. And the Ravens sent a group of team officials to the University of North Carolina on Friday to conduct a private workout with Nicks and Tar Heels tight end Richard Quinn.

The Indianapolis Colts also attended the workout.

In the opinion of Tar Heels offensive coordinator John Shoop, Nicks would fit the Ravens' need for a productive, reliable wide receiver.

"He's ultra-productive," said Shoop, a former Chicago Bears and Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator who coached in the NFL for a dozen seasons, during a telephone interview with Ravens Insider "There might be bigger guys or faster guys, but I'm not sure you'll find a more productive guy. He's no one-hit wonder.

"He's a really strong young man and is tough to tackle after the catch. He really sees the game as a job. He studies his craft. He wants to be coached really hard. My hope is he gets with a great wide receivers coach who pushes him every step of the way. He'll meet the challenge. He totally gets it."

Nicks, who reportedly gained some bad weight and bulked up to 226 pounds after straining his hamstring while running his 40-yard dash at the combine, is working his way back into shape and is nearly back down to his playing weight of 212 pounds.

Because Nicks was unable to do a full work out at the combine and his Pro Day, this was his final chance to audition for the Ravens.

"If anybody wants to make a lot out of a tweak of the hamstring at the combine, I think they're missing the boat," Shoop said. "This is a guy who doesn't miss games. This is a guy who practices. He's got a lot of endurance and toughness."

Nicks is regarded as more of a route-runner with good hands and isn't known for stretching his field due to his lack of ideal timed speed with a 4.51 in the 40-yard dash. He set school records for receptions (181), reception yards (2,840) and touchdown catches (21).

Nicks, who has also visited the Ravens, isn't as fast as other late first-round receiver prospects like the University of Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey (4.30) and Rutgers' Kenny Britt (4.40). Heyward-Bey and Britt have also had private workouts with Baltimore.

"There were times where Hakeem did separate from cornerbacks and other times where he would position the guy, but he doesn't always separate," Shoop said. "Hakeem had the confidence to keep the defensive back where he wanted him and could go up and get the football. He can run the whole route tree.

"He does have some speed to separate and he understands how to work underneath. He can run by people. He's faster than what people think he is."

Nicks visited the Carolina Panthers this week as well as the St. Louis Rams, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Tennessee Titans.

Nicks caught 74 passes for 958 yards and five touchdowns as a sophomore. He caught eight passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns in the Tar Heels' bowl game.

"I think everybody really likes him," Shoop said. "You can turn on the film and see it. There's no stretch of the imagination or projections. He played in a pro-style offense. We studied a lot of Larry Fitzgerald routes and Hakeem could go out there and put his own signature on it.

"He's got talent and hands, but he also understands concepts. He reminds me of a young Muhsin Muhammad. This is a guy who's smart and always looking to improve."

NOTE: Quinn, who took an official visit to the Ravens' training complex, is regarded as a strong blocker with good athleticis m. However, he only caught 12 career passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns.

The 6-4, 264-pounder ran a 4.75 in the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day.

"Richard is a really physical guy," Shoop said. "He's a doggone good blocker. I feel like I did him a disservice as a play-caller. We were so strong at the wide receiver position that I don't think we got enough balls to him.

"When we did go to him, he had some production. We should have done it more. I think he can be really fine receiver down the road."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital


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